Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday morning skate

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Big weekend for the Mavericks. Not only is it a home-and-home with No. 2-ranked Minnesota (starting tonight at Mariucci Arena), but it's a chance to get back on track after a tough WCHA-opening weekend at St. Cloud State.

That weekend may have exposed some things that Mike Hastings didn't know about his team in nonconference play, and the new coach is trying to nip that in the bud ASAP. No easy task against the Gophers.

"Our compete," Hastings said when asked where MSU needs the most improvement. "I liked where it was for 40 minutes on Saturday (at St. Cloud)."

Hastings said senior Phil Cook (pictured) likely will get the start in goal tonight. Cook has had his ups and downs throughout his career. Yep, some high highs and a couple of low lows. But the last time he played against Minnesota, he was as good as he's ever been. That was two years ago, an MSU sweep in Mankato when he earned WCHA's defensive player of the week honors.

I'll post the Mavericks' official lines later today, but expect them to be mixed up a bit from last week. From there, who knows what may change in the game, Hastings said. Lines changed daily in practice but it appears the top group will be Matt Leitner between Chase Grant and Johnny McInnis. Other groupings from Thursday: Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Dylan Margonari and Bryce Gervais; Eli Zuck, Brett Knowles and Eriah Hayes; and Teddy Blueger, Max Gaede and Zach Lehrke (we'll see if it stays that way). J.P. Burkemper is out with an injury.

"Until we get some consistency, I don't think you'll see consistency in the lines," Hastings said. "We're searching for answers. ... We're trying to come up with some combinations where we get good offensive production without abandoning the defensive side of things."

Read more on The Freep's College Hockey Gameday.

Checking in on the Minnesota coverage, the Star Tribune's Michael Russo wrote about Hastings, who spent one season on the Gophers bench as an assistant coach. Meanwhile Roman Augustoviz predicts a Gophers sweep. At the Pioneer Press, Gophers player Tom Serratore (the son of Hastings' old coach Frank) is featured.

Going around the WCHA ...

Nebraska-Omaha at Michigan Tech: The red Mavs hit the road for Houghton with some hope for their offense after James Polk (any relation to our 11th president?) scored his first goal. The Huskies, meanwhile, are hoping to bounce back after getting swept at Denver last weekend.

Colorado College at Wisconsin: The only team yet to have played a WCHA series, the Tigers hope to start conference play strong in Madison. For the Badgers, everyone knows that Mark Zengerle is more than pretty good, but he thinks he can make himself even better.

St. Cloud State at Denver: Fresh off their sweep of MSU, the Huskies will head west without star forward Ben Hanowski, who was injured in last week's series opener. For the unbeaten Pioneers, much was made about their goaltending and defense in the preseason, but they've scored five goals in each of their first four games.

Boston University at North Dakota: What a treat of a nonconference series in Grand Forks between two national powers. It's the first time since 1996 that the Terriers have played at UND, but with the changes coming to college hockey, it may not take that long to happen again.

Other coverage from USCHO and College Hockey News.

Check back on the blog later today and tonight for more on the Minnesota State vs. Minnesota game from Minneapolis.

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